Monday, February 6, 2012

Bringing Abraham Heschel to Israel

Haaretz has an article on Dror Bondi, who is writing his doctoral dissertation on Rabbi Abraham Heschel, on the challenges of applying Heschel's philosophy to the Israeli scene with its rigid lines of Haredi vs. secular and the challenges of the peace process:

Why is Heschel so unknown in Israel?
Bondi: "He's not known in Israel because here another God rules. A God we all believe in and deny. He has black clothing, a long white beard, he holds a book with small print, waves an Israeli flag up high. When Heschel speaks in the name of God, the secular person says, 'That's not for me, that's for the religious folks.' And the religious say, 'That's not my God.' In Israeli society, we're trying to solve our problems by means of the status quo. The religious have God, the secular have reality. Heschel upsets all that. He's not proposing religious liberalism or something milder than that. He wants to bring back God. The God who has died."


And how are you accepted in religious society?
"It's easier for secular people to hear than it is for religious people. Often when I meet religious people, I get the feeling that they find Heschel threatening. There's an initial apprehension. I hope it will get through to them, though, because Heschel expresses what we've managed to forget. I have hope that Heschel will free them from so-called 'religious society.'"

Bondi says he has trouble with the Israeli definition of the word 'religious.' "In English, when you say 'religious' you mean someone who has a connection with God in some way. In Israel a 'religious' person is someone who belongs to a sector that observes halakha. We've crowned halakha as the new god. This was a posttraumatic Haredi reaction, after the Enlightenment, after the Holocaust - come, let's focus on halakha. But it's not Jewish."

1 comment:

thanbo said...

Heschel was a neo-Hasid in the old tradition, obsessed with God but with a louche approach to halacha, much like the old hassidim (before the sloppy attention to davening times became canalized).

Why would his message appeal to any contemporary group, aside from the neo-Hasidim? Or even them?

He's not political or chumratic, like the ultra-religious sector; he's not a pragmatist like the DL; he doesn't have any charismatic contemporary leaders who have taken up his works (and why should they, whatever his feelings, he mostly wrote in an academic mode, so not really their style) to lead/inspire spiritual seekers. He didn't fit in the Warsaw hasidic velt, the Berlin university, HUC or JTS.

What's his natural constituency?